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Officials hear streetscape parking plan concerns

By Staff | Oct 18, 2017

It was standing room only at the Chester Street Resource Center Tuesday as advocates and adversaries gathered to discuss the parking controversy surrounding the proposed Southeast 47th Terrace streetscape plan at a joint meeting between the Community Redeve-lopment Agency and the South Cape Community Redevelopment Advisory Board.

Those business owners learned where the off-street parking spots would be made up, as well as the ramifications of what would happen if the spaces were kept.

Most who came agreed the $13 million streetscape project was needed, but the loss of parking was a concern.

“We’re in favor of the project, but we want one like on Lafayette Street, where they kept on-street parking. Losing that would be detrimental to their businesses,” Ed Ramos said.

Ande Grant, owner of Noela Chocolate, said the reasons people say they don’t want the streetscape project are the reasons they should.

“Many people complain they don’t come because it’s ugly or they don’t like the businesses there. They are only advocating why we need this,” Grant said.

Many from Merrick’s Seafood and Fish Tales Grille came to express their concerns about the project, from the loss of parking spaces at their location which they said would severely impact their business, to how it would impact their older customers.

“Our business is a different case. We are a carry-out business. If they can’t jump out and jump back in their cars, they won’t come,” said Kerri Krieg. “Even losing three parking places would impact our business. Our patrons would have no place to go.”

Bill Corbett, traffic engineer for the city, gave a presentation on the parking impacts of the project, which he said would result in a net gain 41 spaces.

The loss of 114 on-street spots would be made up by increasing spots at Big John’s Shopping Center and Club Square, among other places, by modifying the way parking is arranged.

Corbett also demonstrated what would happen if they kept the southside on-street parking at Merrick’s. He said the result would alter the driveways by making them one-way, as well as increasing the time and cost of the project.

Among the ideas proposed was a loading zone in front of the shops and or a nickel trolley.

Earl Stafford, a resident, was vehemently opposed to the project, wondering where the people will come from and how the plan would be paid for.

“It’s not a case of if you build it, they will come, it’s if they don’t come, don’t build it,” Stafford said.

CRA Commission chair John Carioscia said such downtown projects have worked in other cities in the state.

“In Fort Lauderdale, Naples, West Palm and Fort Myers, these projects have worked. You may not like it, but we do, and we believe it will work,” Carioscia said.

Corbett said in the future there could be an extra loading area or the mentioned nickel trolley to take people from Club Square to where they want to go, which many people believed would work by freeing up spaces faster.

Still, Carioscia asked the CRA and SCCRAB boards if anyone wanted to make a motion to bring the issue to City Council (which makes up the CRA board) to suspend the project for three months to further investigate the parking dilemma. No motion was offered.

Grant said she was happy there wasn’t so much negativity, as people spoke and seemingly changed the minds of those on the fence.

“Parking is going to be an issue, but I think people felt it wasn’t big enough an issue to stop the project,” Grant said.

“I don’t think anyone will be totally happy with change, but I think we satisfied those to a point where we were ahead of the game,” Carioscia said. “We’re ready to move forward.”